Not so very long after our reunion began, my natural mother sent me a poem she’d written about us finding each other.
Shortly after our first meeting, I wrote down what I recalled.
The following is a poem for two voices that combines these two pieces of writing.
I can’t believe you’re in my life.
I do not remember the color of the door. Or the texture.
Only the curtains to the side, through which I looked,
after I’d knocked,
I didn’t think I’d see you one day. I’d given
up hope years ago.
I do not remember the color of the curtains, only
that they left a small gap, through which I saw
the slim hall and the edges of
kitchen counter, sofa, armchair. On the far side
of these, a sliding door lay open, revealing
pieces of the three of you,
lounging on the balcony.
I’d torn up the words
from the year of your birth, and
tightened the lock
on the box in my head.
‘You could turn and run.’
I remember thinking that. I recall the idea seeming
red and grainy. I knocked again, swallowed, felt
my saliva, thick, inching down my throat, while through the sliver, you,
my mother, and your husband and your other daughter —
the one you kept–
didn’t move at all.
I couldn’t have searched,
didn’t want to intrude, I’d given
you up, I was told —
I stepped back from the sliver, towards
the grainy , red idea.
Then one day a phone call, she’s looking
for me. A letter, a picture, a journey
to my daughter
across the sea.
And then you were there, crowding in the skinny hall.
Your husband and other daughter — my sister — squashed
themselves into the doorframe. Behind them, you,
who I wanted to get to — whom I’d tracked
over 3000 miles and 37 years and as many layers
of bureaucracy — waiting in the hallway.
The meeting first so awkward, unleashed
the tears, and pain crashed over me,
relentlessly, the anguish and the shame,
the wonder too
as I gazed at you.
Later, you told me I drank
water from the tap, which you thought
was good, and not American at all.
I don’t remember that, either.
Is this my daughter?
Can this be true?
I remember, though, the feeling of you and me,
sitting side by side on the couch, less than a foot apart. I remember
the color of your eyes, gray, with a hazel circle around the pupil
like the eyes I’d been looking at all my life. I remember
the grain of your freckled hand
wrapped around the mug of tea; the heat
of my own mug in my same-grained hand; the warmth
of the tea, brown and smooth, slipping down my throat,
the tea you — my mother — made.
I only had five days with you
in the afterbirthing time, before they took you
from the crib and left me
Couldn’t they have waited
until I, too, had gone?
I remember the cadence of your words, the melody,
halting in places, dotted with rests, skipping beats
we walked across the grass and over the bridge and along the road
as you made your way, sight reading a long-tucked-away tune,
through the love you’d held for my father, the goodbye
you’d said, the knitting needles clacking in the mothering home,
your fearful heart, beating
in the hospital, your belly and soul
in the days after.
A lifetime had gone by
with you hidden
in my soul.
I remember one loose tear
trailing your cheek
while your husband and my sister stepped ahead, clearing space,
making room for me to come in.
It feels so good to free you
and make our spirits whole.
It feels so good to know you It feels so good to know you
my beloved darling girl. my beloved darling mother